Northern Ireland

Audit office concerned over six executive departments

NI Audit Office
Image caption The audit office is concerned that six executive departments breached spending controls

The NI Audit Office has expressed concern after six executive departments breached spending controls.

The violations relate to the departments not receiving the correct approval for spending decisions.

The audit office examines how the budgets of Stormont Executive's various departments are spent.

While the standard of financial reporting across central government remains high, six departments received "qualified audit opinions".

That means they were not considered up to scratch, with the rules governing spending not being properly applied.

Some examples include the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers not getting the necessary approval to spend £3m on repair work at the Maze site.

The Department of Social Development exceeded an agreed amount on a city centre regeneration project by £1.7m.

'Serious issues'

The details were contained in Auditor General Kieran Donnelly's annual report.

The report also said some "potentially very serious issues" have been identified at Northern Ireland's largest housing association, Helm.

The chairperson of the assembly's public accounts committee (PAC), Paul Maskey, welcomed the report.

"Although the overall standard of reporting across central government is generally high, there remains some serious shortcomings across all departments," he said.

"It is vital, particularly in these challenging economic times, that departments ensure that they spend taxpayers' money appropriately and with the necessary approvals in place.

"It is with this in mind that I'm sure my colleagues on the PAC will be keen to study and discuss this report at the earliest opportunity."

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